SALT LAKE CITY (RNS) Mormon blogger and podcaster John Dehlin, who was excommunicated for apostasy from the LDS Church on Feb. 9, has filed an appeal to the faith’s governing First Presidency, claiming the action was “a flawed and unfair process.”
In a Tuesday (March 10) letter, Dehlin said evidence his local Mormon leaders used to justify the excommunication — namely, his publicly expressed doubts about several orthodox interpretations of LDS doctrine — does not “in any way satisfy the Church’s requirement for apostasy, which requires one to (teach) as Church doctrine information that is not Church doctrine.’ ”
He has “never taught my questions or doubts as Church doctrine,” Dehlin wrote in the letter to LDS President Thomas S. Monson and his counselors, Henry B. Eyring and Dieter F. Uchtdorf.
Further, Dehlin, who founded the popular Mormon Stories podcast, disputes that those were the only reasons for the discipline, saying that he was sanctioned in large measure for his support of feminist and gay organizations.
“I believe very strongly that the success of my podcast along with my public advocacy for same-sex marriage … and my public support of Ordain Women (pushing for ordination in the church’s all-male priesthood), were the primary causes for this disciplinary council,” Dehlin writes in the letter, saying he was told as much in private conversations with his LDS stake president Bryan King, a regional lay leader who oversees several congregations in Logan. “I do not believe that any of these actions constitute apostasy.”
In his Feb. 9 letter outlining reasons for the excommunication, however, King wrote that the action was not taken because Dehlin had doubts about the faith or its history, but “because of your categorical statements opposing the doctrines of the church, and their wide dissemination via your Internet presence, which has led others away from the church.”
Dehlin is free to criticize the church and to share his opinions, King wrote, but not “as a member in good standing.”
In his appeal to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ top leaders, Dehlin also insisted that King did not follow the church’s own process for discipline in an LDS “high council,” composed of 12 male members of the stake.
According to the Utah-based faith’s Handbook, which spells out policies and procedures, one half of the assembled men were assigned “to stand up in behalf of the accused, and prevent insult and injustice.”
During last month’s hearing to consider his church status, Dehlin said in Tuesday’s letter, “not one member of the high council ever spoke a word on my behalf during the entire time I was present for the disciplinary council.”
Included with Dehlin’s letter is a supportive “brief” written by Mormon lawyers Nadine Hansen and Kate Kelly, Kelly was excommunicated for apostasy in June for her leadership of Ordain Women.
“I sincerely believe that the Church is harming itself by excommunicating me, and people like me,” Dehlin concluded in his appeal. “I believe that my doubts and concerns about the Church are legitimate and are becoming increasingly common. … [W]e can and should be more open and loving in how we treat those in the Church who have doubts about or cannot accept various aspects of our historical or truth claims.”
There is no allotted time frame for the First Presidency to decide on this case, but the podcaster asks in the letter that the LDS leaders send their verdict directly to him, rather than through King, “as a professional courtesy.”